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Post Georgia 41 – Missouri 20: No loss for old men

Sunday September 9, 2012

“No man loves life like him that’s growing old.” – Sophocles

Forgive us if we go a little overboard with the Old Man Football thing. Georgia’s style of play has been mocked even within our own fan base. Calling it “old man football” distilled years of familiar criticism into one pithy phrase. Boring, predictable, not creative – you didn’t have to go to Missouri to hear what you’ve heard weekly in Sanford Stadium. So to hear it so bluntly from a Missouri defensive lineman was a bit of an “only we can do that to our pledges” moment. “Blame Bobo” on the message boards? Preach on, brother. Old man football from some Big 12 castoff? Oh HELL no.

It helped that Sheldon Richardson’s infamous quote not only hit on a very sensitive spot for Georgia fans, it also summed up the biggest storyline in the SEC this weekend. A&M with its “air raid” offense and Missouri’s spread were new looks for many of their new conference peers, and both fans and pundits wondered how the new styles would fare in the defense-minded SEC. So both the A&M/Florida and the Georgia/Missouri games were, quite unfairly, presented as tests for one style against the other. Would the new guys come in and teach the stodgy SEC how to play offense, or would the old guard put the whippersnappers in their place?

The Georgia/Missouri game had a lot less to do with a clash of styles as it had to do with a clash of programs. I don’t mean to discount the importance of an effective scheme – on both sides of the ball. But many of the reasons why Georgia won this game happened long before the Dawgs flew to Columbia. It’s recruiting that brings top talent like Jarvis Jones, Aaron Murray, and Marlon Brown into the program. It’s a refined approach to conditioning that allows Georgia to play with a limited roster and still be strong enough to make big plays in the fourth quarter. It’s the experience of playing in games with this kind of build-up several times a season.

Missouri isn’t far away. They’ll be just fine as a mid-tier SEC team this season, and their offense will give several opponents fits. As a program, Georgia is just positioned better now. The Dawgs will face bigger challenges this season, but it’s reassuring to see that we seem to have the team we thought we did. That Georgia would lean on its defense and Aaron Murray couldn’t have been closer to the preseason consensus. With a retooled offensive line and new tailbacks, this was the formula that would have to be successful in order for Georgia to live up to preseason expectations. The good news is that the formula seems to work, and it should only improve as suspended defenders return.

The mandate going forward is to keep the fire lit. It wasn’t difficult to find motivation to turn “old man football” into “grown man football.” Grown men show up for work even on bad days. The win doesn’t give Georgia anything – it just means that all of the goals are still in reach. With all of the missing players and a hostile environment very much against them, the simple fact of leaving Missouri with intact goals is very much worth celebrating. The team deserves a big and appreciative crowd next week regardless of the opponent, and I hope Georgia fans come through.

More from the game…

  • Richard Samuel has done it again. A year ago he was the improbable hero of the Florida game. This year, without seeing time on offense or defense, he found a way to come up big on special teams. His stop on the fake punt wasn’t easy – he had to shed blockers as the play came to him. He used the skills he developed several seasons ago in a short stint at linebacker and made a game-changing tackle.
  • Samuel’s stop came at a time when neither team could grab momentum. Missouri opened the second half scoring. Georgia answered and converted the try to tie it up. Missouri responded with a field goal. Georgia came back and took the lead for the first time. The Dawgs had finally forced a punt, and giving up the fake would have been deflating for a defense that had just made its first big stop of the second half. Instead, the defense didn’t allow another point.
  • That back-and-forth was a key theme in the game. Georgia didn’t come out and take the crowd out of the game, but their ability to answer Missouri score-for-score kept the Tigers from getting on a roll and kept the crowd from becoming more than a nuisance. It’s a credit to the coaches and the leadership that panic nor frustration set in. They worked through the stagnant start and were prepared when Missouri finally wore down.
  • Georgia struggled at times with Missouri’s tempo, but it’s important that three of Missouri’s five scoring chances ended with field goal attempts rather than touchdowns. The field goal attempts all represented big stops: the two in the first half were actually three-and-outs as the defense stood their ground following turnovers. The second half attempt came after a long 13-play drive when it seemed that Missouri would take momentum back after Georgia tied it at 17. The field goal gave the lead back to the Tigers, but holding them to 3 instead of 7 put the Dawgs in a position to take the lead with Georgia’s next score.
  • As much trouble as the inside linebackers had last week with Buffalo’s running game, they responded in a big way at Missouri. The Tigers broke only two runs over 15 yards with their dangerous spread running game. Franklin was held to a Dayne-like 25 yards on 20 carries. Robinson was very effective at getting to Franklin on designated runs. Herrera was extremely active, especially in the first half. Their efforts helped keep Missouri fairly one-dimensional and kept Georgia from being burned when the outstanding pressure flushed Franklin.
  • Georgia’s inexperience at a few key positions showed. Bowman was burned for a long TD. Missouri’s more successful passes were slants into the interior of the secondary. Theus struggled with penalties and protection. Morgan’s kicking was an adventure, but the kicks he made were huge. I’d even include Mitchell in there – he’s not exactly seasoned as a punt returner and made a very poor decision that fortunately didn’t result in Missouri points. But for the most part, Georgia covered their areas of inexperience well. Along those lines, Mitchell’s debut as a cornerback was quietly successful.
  • I get on Murray probably more than he deserves, but the problems hooking up with passes to the running backs – be they screens or fullback releases – continue to confound me.
  • Murray faced a ton of pressure, and several of his throws ended up being blind in the general direction of where someone should be while Murray took a good lick. As the game wore on Murray became a lot better against the pressure. Missouri took away the outside routes and the run, and the deep ball was impossible under that pressure. Murray did well taking the opportunities presented by the pressure, and Bennett and Brown were excellent at finding those holes. The quick underneath route to King that set up a score was the perfect read for the situation.
  • Welcome back, Marlon Brown. We saw a glimpse of his potential at Vanderbilt last year. If that’s the new norm, it gives Georgia a lot more flexibility in how they use Malcolm Mitchell. In much the same way we’d burn Knowshon’s 2006 redshirt in hindsight, it’s a shame that Brown didn’t redshirt in 2009.
  • We have a tight end sighting! Jay Rome had the first reception of the season by a tight end, and it was a big one that converted a 2nd and 11 in the fourth quarter. As with the Buffalo game, the tight ends are spending most of their time helping with protection.
  • The penalties were painful. Many seemed to be the product of the environment and a young line. Missouri smartly used movement and shifts to add to the crowd noise to draw several false starts. It would be something to worry about if it continues, but Georgia has three home games to work those problems out before their next road test.
  • Generally Georgia seemed well-prepared for the game. There were breakdowns on defense that resulted in points, but I don’t think they saw anything that surprised them. The offense wasn’t clean, but, again, there were answers to what Missouri presented. Better line play and fewer drops would’ve made Murray and the coaches look a lot smarter.

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